Give Ralph Ellison a Break; Stephen King's Theatrical Excess

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Today in books and publishing: Duel of the Andrew Cuomo biographies, a call to leave Ralph Ellison alone, and science explains why books smell like books. 

If you've ever dreamed of chucking it all to write the great Andrew Cuomo biography, this is the spring to do it. Random House has enlisted New York Post Albany bureau chief Fred Dicker to write a biography of the New York governor. Per Post media columnist Keith Kelly, Dicker snagged an advance in the "low six figures." That's believed to be in line with what Grand Central gave Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson two months ago for his Cuomo biography, The Son Also Rises. Dicker doesn't have a punny title, but he has secured Cuomo's cooperation, a good news/bad news proposition for any political biographer. Dicker's book is slated for mid-2013, Shnayerson's for "sometime after 2013." [New York Post]

Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the publication of Invisible Man and to mark the occasion, David Denby is making a simple request: stop being mean to author Ralph Ellison. "Just get off his back," Denby writes. "Stop lamenting what he didn’t do [write a second novel] and celebrate what he did do—which was to create a work of art that, as it happens, has never been more 'relevant' than now." He follows that with an endorsement of Invisible Man -- which bears repeating, even if it has reached institution status -- and a defense of Ellison for the "conservative temperament and comfortable personal habits" that defined his later years. (Denby's boss David Remnick was also sympathetic to these qualities in "Visible Man," his very good, not-entirely-available-online New Yorker profile of Ellison months before his death in 1994.) [The New Yorker]

Recommended Reading

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, the "horror musical" Stephen King and John Mellencamp have been working on off-and-on for the past twelve years, finally debuted in Atlanta this week. Mellencamp's songs are getting terrific notices, but New York theater types say the book -- written by King -- is good, but not great. "The story's pretty good," a source tells Post theater columnist Michael Rieiel.  "[B]ut this production can't work in New York." Another source complains: "The first act is confusing. There’s too much going on and the pacing is slack...There are lots of special effects, like a full-size car that appears for about 15 seconds. It’s pointless." Sounds like the last hundred pages of a "big" King book. [New York Post]

You can thank acid in cheap paper and ink for the kind of nice, sort of headache-inducing smell of old books. Hanging around with people who smoke also can contribute to that telltale bookish smell. [via AbeBooks]

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